Commentary

Gang's gotta be kidding on Sanchez

Coddled quarterback's extension is latest punch line in Jets' continuing joke

Updated: March 10, 2012, 9:14 PM ET
By Stephen A. Smith | ESPNNewYork.com

It's bad enough that Rex Ryan has failed on his Super Bowl predictions. It's even worse that Mark Sanchez spent so much time last season proving how ridiculous such guarantees were in the first place. But this latest move by the New York Jets -- in which they've basically resorted to their same old coddling tendencies, rewarding regression instead of progression -- just shows this franchise to be the second-class citizen it truly is.

Perhaps Gang Green will be something more tangible, significant, on another day. But on this day, let it be said that the Jets are a joke. When you take the time and effort to reward your quarterback and the leader of, arguably, the NFL's most dysfunctional franchise with a three-year, $40.5 million extension -- knowing the man still had two years remaining on his contract -- clearly, you're looking to be laughed at.

Even if this was an exercise to appease Sanchez after the Jets' supposed pursuit of Peyton Manning.

"[Sanchez] is a young player," Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum told reporters following the team's announcement of the extension. "And just like any young player, there's some inconsistencies that have to get better. We've won a lot of football games with Mark as a starting quarterback for the New York Jets. That's really what convinced Rex, Woody [Johnson] and me. It's not a projection. It's not a hope. It's not an incremental leap of faith. It's, 'Here's a three-year body of work.'"

I'm going to stop right here. I simply can't take it anymore.

Here's a question: If the point has been reached at which we're tired of Ryan's boasting about things not achieved, when does fatigue set in for Sanchez? Yes, he is the man who catapulted the Jets to two straight AFC title games. But has anyone forgotten how the Jets initially squeezed into the playoffs his rookie year? Or how horrible things were this year?

The shrapnel of criticism aimed in Sanchez's direction isn't entirely about his ability to play football. It's just about time to fret over Sanchez's mental makeup and this insatiable need the Jets evidently feel to nurture his psyche, no matter who else on their roster they alienate in the process.

Did anyone listen to LaDainian Tomlinson talk of how much Sanchez was coddled after the season? How about former Jet and noted ESPN NFL analyst, Damien Woody, who essentially said the same?

Does anyone recall seeing Santonio Holmes pout his way into the offseason? Or Ryan being pushed to a near-tearful mea culpa, acknowledging he was asleep at the wheel while acrimony and dissent were ballooning in his locker room instead of wins?

Who's the common denominator in all of this?

Don't bother answering. We all know the deal.

The same quarterback who's never had a viable backup since he arrived in this league is the same quarterback the Jets just committed to for the next five years. It's the same Mark Sanchez whose idea of a demotion is being pulled from a few reps in practice so Ryan could get his attention -- while telling the media "Shhh! Don't say anything. I want him to sweat!"

Seriously! Stop laughing!

We're talking about the same Mark Sanchez last seen throwing one pivotal interception after another with the season on the line versus the Dolphins, tanning in the South Florida sun -- blow-drying his hair, evidently -- before Holmes had stomached enough and said "To hell with this, let me go and relax myself."

Holmes spoke for the silenced among Gang Green. He spoke to a fan base that had seen the inexplicable, still desperate for an explanation. He revealed, through his own disgust, that the Jets, despite having a talented quarterback, are still saddled with one whose capabilities are limited because the Jets do everything but don an apron to protect the man undeservedly called Sanchise.

"This is an NFL locker room," one member of the Jets, still on the roster, told me after his team's loss to the New York Giants. "When men see another man protected a lot more than others, you don't like it. Especially when it's your quarterback, and he doesn't seem to mind."

The Jets should have known this was a problem last season. They certainly know this now. Yet after rightfully pursuing Peyton Manning -- if for no other reason than to put Sanchez on notice that more productivity would be demanded, or else -- they reverted back to form.

"I'm excited that the Jets believed in me and that I was the guy that they want to move forward with for the future," Sanchez told reporters once the extension was announced. "The best part about it is that they chose to stick with me. I'm going to be the starting quarterback for the next few years. That's exciting. It gives the team a reminder that I'm the leader of this team."

Yes, it does!

Congratulations, New York Jets. Your future is set. You have your quarterback, and all the baggage that comes with him.

Good luck on thinking it'll get you somewhere. To places only the Giants can speak about in this football town, that is.

Stephen A. Smith | email

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Stephen A. Smith is a featured columnist for ESPNNewYork.com, host of a weekday show for ESPN New York 98.7 and a regular on "SportsCenter" and "First Take."

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